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Investors back Borders company

Tax row chief raises funds for cancer drug

Alan Walker RyboquinA Borders pharmaceutical company, whose boss was involved in a dispute over tax with Deputy First Minister John Swinney earlier this year, has raised funding to expand its operations.

Ryboquin, has secured £1.3 million that will allow the company to take its cancer gene therapy product closer to clinical trials.

Existing investors, including Scottish Enterprise, angel investors Tri Cap and Braveheart, together with board members and new investors, have provided £800,000, topped up with a Scottish Enterprise SMART fund research and development grant of £495,000.

Work on the company’s product, which is designed to make chemotherapy more effective, will be carried out by the University of Strathclyde’s Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences.

Ryboquin, which also works closely with University College London, plans to raise a further £7m to £10m this year from institutional investors.

Dr Alan Walker, chief executive said: “In Ryboquin, we now have a product that we believe could enable traditional chemotherapy to be up to four times as effective in some people and reduce some of the side effects of this treatment in some others.

“This funding will enable us to take Ryboquin from the laboratory to a place where it can be used in hospital for a clinical trial.”

Professor Alex Mullen, Professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Strathclyde, described it as “an exciting opportunity” to see the product getting into a clinical environment where it may be of benefit to patients.

Jim Watson, director of innovation and enterprise at Scottish Enterprise, said: “We know that companies that embrace both innovation and exporting grow twice as fast as those that don’t.  These are crucial competitive advantages, not just for Ryboquin, but for the long-term success of the Scottish economy.”

Earlier this year Dr Walker criticised Deputy First Minister John Swinney over the government’s tax policies, claiming they were discouraging talented staff moving to Scotland.

Dr Walker, a delegate at a life sciences conference in Edinburgh, told Mr Swinney: “I am trying to build a significant biotech company in Scotland through merger and acquisition but people will not move to Scotland.

“They see it as more expensive to buy a house and there are rumours about a differential in income tax between England and Scotland. Our chief scientist will not move out of London.”

Mr Swinney was forced to admit that under Scotland’s new land and buildings transaction tax – the replacement for stamp duty – properties above £350,000 would attract more tax than in England, but this was “at the margins”.

However, he was forced to accept that the tax rose sharply above that threshold and that “behavioural responses” by individuals was something for the government to consider.

“I accept that on higher value properties there is a differential with the rest of the UK,” he said.

“On personal taxation the government has to think carefully about behavioural responses.”

But he said it was important to take into account other factors and the attractions of moving to Scotland.

“People have to look at this in the round. They will find here a greater cohesiveness among institutions than the rest of the UK.”

However, he said the government had to be “mindful” of how people responded to government policies on tax.

Photo: Professor Alex Mullen (left) and Alan Walker

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